Digital ChatterPodcasts

Digital Chatter Episode #016

By May 22, 2019 July 22nd, 2019 No Comments

Eric Sharpe: All right. Hello and welcome everyone to another episode of Digital Chatter. I’m your host, Eric Sharpe. And today I’ve got Liz Giorgi here who is the founder and CEO of Mighteor. Tell me, what is Mighteor? Tell me a little bit about it.

Liz Giorgi: Yeah. Mighteor is an Internet video production company and what that means to us is we provide professional video services for all the places that you watch video online. So when brands are thinking about building an awesome Instagram stories campaign, they come to us. When they want to build amazing Facebook ads, they come to us. When they’re trying to tell a serialized stories on youtube and build amazing channels, they come to us. So we’re really that intersection of video and the web.

Eric Sharpe: Awesome. That’s great. That’s a perfect pitch right there.

Liz Giorgi: Thank you.

Eric Sharpe: Liz, tell me, tell me how you, how did you get started? How did it get started with all of this video stuff?

Liz Giorgi: Yes. Well, you know, when I was a little girl, I desperately wanted to be Barbara Walters. I really admired her. I remember sitting in my living room as a little girl with my parents and seeing Barbara come on and she would ask the toughest questions of people. Out of the most important people in the world, presidents, prime ministers, elected officials, business leaders. And I admired her so much because, not just because she was asking tough questions, but because every single time when the show whould end you would watch the credits roll back. And it would say executive producer, Barbara Walters. And in my mind, that always stuck in my head, this woman who was not just doing something incredible but was actually behind all of the hard work to it. And so when I was thinking about what I wanted to do, I had a sort of realization how could I do anything except for journalism. Journalism was clearly the direction I needed to go. And that was really the start of all of this.

Eric Sharpe: Okay, awesome. So, so you kind of chose journalism as your path, you know, as a, as a young, young, a woman. I mean, where did that take you from there? What, you know, what was next? How did you pursue that?

Liz Giorgi: Well, so great, great idea, right? But sometimes life doesn’t always go the way we plan. So I went to school at the University of Minnesota. I had an amazing experience. I really loved my program. But I graduated from college in 2007 and most newsrooms were really struggling, uh, right before the economic collapse. And then the economic collapse just took it to a whole other level. And so I really had to hustle for a few years. I was doing all kinds of interesting production jobs, everything from working on podcasts, uh, in the very, very early days to working on different shows that I could get myself assigned to and taking any freelance Gig I could take. And I tell people that it was hard at the time, but that hustle and the need to keep looking for the next job was actually the thing that prepared me for when I decided to start my own production company in 2013. So you know, it all works out, but I think that at the time I had had a different vision.

Liz Giorgi: I had had this vision of I’m going to go work in a newsroom and then I’m going to go be a host. It didn’t work out that way. I ended up having to work behind the scenes. I had to really find interesting ways to keep myself busy. I was building youtube channels for different programs. I was doing all kinds of things to just pay the bills. And it actually gave me this unique perspective, which was: there’s going to be a future to professional quality production on the Internet. How can I combine these things? And so in 2013, that’s exactly what I did when I started Mighteor.

Eric Sharpe: That’s great. I mean, it sounds like you’re wearing a ton of hats and that’s commendable because not everyone’s willing to take on all those tasks, you know, especially when, you know, during the economic downturn it was tough. And then I remember, uh, similarly I dealt with very, very difficult compounding issues. Obviously money was a big thing, but it’s like you got to be the chief trash taker outer and for the chief salesperson and, and everything’s like, I get that. Uh, so walk me through, you know, the, the moment where you chose to do this on your own, when, you know, what was kind of clicking in your mind? Uh, you know, bring me back to 2013 or, or before then.

Liz Giorgi: Yeah, well actually, so I got really lucky in 2011 I landed a job with an ad agency in Minneapolis and there was a huge need at the company for somebody to really help hire vendors for creative purposes. So I was going on and finding people who could build websites, graphic designers to work on different projects. And I was hiring the production companies that were making the content for our clients. And time and again, I would find myself going, why can I not find this company, a production company that can just make me youtube videos. All I need for this project is great youtube videos. Why can’t I find this company? And after looking for two years, I went to the seat, the CEO of that business at the time and I said, “I really love this, but I have to tell you I miss production. I miss the work of production. And I think that there’s a need out there in the world for a production company that focuses on on the web”. And he said, great, I support this fully. You can be our very first vendor that provides us and I will be your very first customer. And so I’m forever grateful to John and to, to that team for being so supportive at the time. It really did help me kick off the business.

Eric Sharpe: Sure. And that’s kind of a unique, uh, a unique ending to a day job. And, and understandably a lot of people out there who still have day jobs with that side hustle. You know, they want to be an entrepreneur. They’re kind of tiptoeing in, you know they’re shallow in. I mean, you essentially, were able to dive into the deep end knowing that you already had your first client. Right.

Liz Giorgi: Yeah. I did. But you know, it’s like I always tell people just because someone says they’re going to be your customer, it doesn’t mean they actually will be your customer. And so, um, we did a couple of projects together, but it was certainly never enough to actually pay my bills. Right. And so I had to get really smart really quickly about, okay, what services are we going to provide? Who are the people that we think we can most help? And so, you know, really it goes back to those hustler moments of being a freelancer where you figure out, okay, I think I can help this company with this part of the task. Or you know, I remember being connected with a nonprofit that needed a video for their annual fundraising campaign and being able to do that one project for them, which led to another project with them. And you know, in those early days you’re just taking anything you can get to, to make everything work. I often say to people, year one is the “just survive year”. Like if you can just survive, you should be happy. Like don’t expect the world to suddenly notice you. Don’t expect it to be the best year ever. Just go, if I am alive and still want to do this after year one, that is success. And so you just have to hustle and you have to be willing to take what you can get for awhile until you really find your footing.

Eric Sharpe: That’s great advice. For anyone out there who’s just starting or maybe they’re even in, you know, past year one and they’re still, you know, wishing and wanting, uh, for, for that. And, and I get that. I mean, I’ve been doing business now for over a decade and sometimes I still feel like, you know, when’s it my turn? Right? You know, everyone wants to, to be at this certain level and there’s certain risks you have to take in order to get there. Uh, you know, I, I started out this Digital Chatter program. Maybe that was a risk I took because I was betting on taking time away from working on client projects and hiring people and so on and so forth to pursue one of my passions, which is, you know, figuring out what, what makes entrepreneurs tick and hopefully providing great insight into the minds of entrepreneurs to help spur more entrepreneurs, you know, from nothing.

Liz Giorgi: Well, and that’s, of course you realizing something that I think is so key, which is that all of us are telling stories all day, every day. We might not realize it, right? I’m like that that is part of what is still a day to day reminder for me of great businesses tell stories. They think about the things that other people love to hear, you know, starting a podcast is an opportunity to tell stories about yourself and about others. Even in the work that we do at Mighteor, often what we’re doing is telling a small story from some part of someone’s business. And so I think most of us are so attuned to “ah, this is a moment of connection through story”.

Eric Sharpe: I agree. I, you know, I think stories, whether they’re five second stories or a five hour stories, you know, the keynote speakers that we hear, the, you know, the long drawn out movies we watch. It’s telling a story does capture our attention. So speaking of that, would you mind telling me a story about, you know, a challenge at some point in your business? You know, something that didn’t exactly work out right? Sort of like a fuck up moment, if you will.

Liz Georgie: Okay. Well, you know, I think for a long time in those hustles. So the first two years of the business, you know, in those hustle years, Kickstarter was a really big thing. Like everybody wanted to launch new products on Kickstarter. And so I thought, well, this is a great opportunity for us to get in front of a lot of people to meet a lot of other business owners. We’ll start doing Kickstarter videos for brands. And we did one and it was really successful. It was a successful campaign. Um, and then we started getting asked to do more. And very quickly I realized that there was just, this was not going to be a great strategy for our business. Uh, oftentimes, you know, and it’s, there’s nothing wrong with it, but oftentimes people are really betting on those Kickstarter campaigns to make or break their business.

Liz Georgie: And the truth of the matter is, is that, um, that is not always the best approach. You got to have many plans. You’ve got to have a plan A, B, C, and D. And I sometimes feel like I have plan X, Y and Z too. And what happened was we were doing a lot of these Kickstarter videos and then not getting paid. And it was either because the folks didn’t get their full funding from, from the campaign or because someone just didn’t, uh, an entrepreneur’s ambition was maybe a little bit bigger than their ability to actually pull it off. And so we realized in year two, okay, this is, we can’t keep doing work and not getting paid. Uh, that’s not going to be great. And not taking down payments was one of those big screw ups that teaches you forever.

Liz Georgie: You can’t, uh, you can’t do that. And so we obviously learned very quickly like, you got to ask for what you’re worth. You’ve got to ask for the down payment. You’ve got to ask for commitments. You’ve got to have contracts in place. You’ve got to do all of those things that maybe don’t feel like the fun parts of business but are the critical parts of business. And those are the, that almost sunk us. Um, but luckily now, you know, we’re on year six and things are much easier in that category. Now that we have all those systems in place and we know how to handle that kind of work. And luckily we’re not doing those kinds of projects anymore. So that helps as well.

Eric Sharpe: I mean, what, what advice would you give to someone out there who is just starting out? Maybe they’re in year one or year two and they don’t have a lot of clients, you know, in order to fall back on the portfolio and, and you know, it’s always, it can be scary asking for a large deposit for a larger client that you get. You know, that client that gets you to the next level. What advice would you give someone?

Liz Georgie: I think one of the things that I did that helped save us coming out of that was I started trying to focus more on being the best at a certain industry. So instead of just trying to say, we do Internet video for everyone, we decided, okay, where have we been most successful? And at the time we had been most successful working with nonprofits and we had been most successful working with tech companies. And so we really focused in on how can we get referrals either from these folks or do more work to get these examples out in front of other nonprofits and other tech businesses so that we can attract, like attracts like, right? If you can put the right stories out there, it will help you to find additional customers like that. And so that was one of the ways in which getting really focused, actually I say like year two, year three is a time to find your footing.

Liz Georgie: It’s a time to think through, okay, we’ve done really well in this area. We haven’t done very well in this area. Let’s say goodbye to the thing in this area so we can make more time, room and energy for the thing that does work for this business. And, um, I thought, I found that when we did that everything felt easier. Everything did. From asking for the down payment, to hiring the right people, to finding more customers, to telling our story, to operationally pulling it off week after week. You know, uh, finding our footing was the thing that allowed us to focus and once we focused, everything else felt a lot easier.

Eric Sharpe: Sure. That makes sense. And that’s phenomenal advice. I’d love to add to that. You know, when you, when you focus in and you know from a marketing standpoint, you’re focusing on that specific target, that really high, hyper targeted group or individual, right? It doesn’t mean you’re necessarily saying goodbye to other business, but what do you do is you just keep that focus and you can keep your energy on there. Other people from other industries might ask you to do work and if you want to take it, great. But you know, by hyper-focusing and saying, you know, I only do this one great thing. Or these three great things or you know, I only work in this one vertical or these two verticals. That’s it. Things start to click after the months go by and you start to learn more and more from each new client that comes in the door. And that’s um, that’s something phenomenal. Um, you know, tell me about something that clicked for you as you were learning from your clients what, you know, what did you, did you,

Liz Georgie: I think one thing that just clicked for me was talking to our customers about why, why they chose us. So this is just like a general piece of advice, which is sometimes we’re afraid to ask folks to evaluate us. We’re afraid to say how was your experience? Because we don’t want to hear anything bad. But actually sometimes you know, you’ll hear in all likelihood if you did your job, you’re going to hear a mix of things. You’re going to hear what went well, you’re going to hear what didn’t go well, and you’re going to hear where there is room or opportunity for improvement. And I think all three of those things are valuable insights that can allow you to make your business stronger. And so I got really diligent about the folks who would hire us. I would say, why did you hire us at the beginning?

Liz Georgie: Would you hire us again? And if you would, why? And if you would not, why? And starting to understand, you know, those are hard questions to ask. You have to put yourself out there. You have to be vulnerable to your own mistakes. But the information that you can glean from that can be the very insight that can help you make your business better. So one of the things that I found out very early on was that our customers felt like they wanted more transparency into the process. They felt like they started the process and then eventually there was a video, but they didn’t always understand when, how, or why things were happening. And so we instituted a process that allowed us to create project timelines that translated traditional production terms into terms that the customer could understand. And by creating that transparency, the customers were not only a lot happier, but they felt more excited about the process at every single stage. And that made them happier about making the investment, right. And we wouldn’t have learned that, and we wouldn’t have learned about, hey, open up the process, open up our experience a little bit, create transparency. Had we not just asked for that information.

Eric Sharpe: Awesome. Well and walk me through, I mean when you talk about the process of this. I think process is extremely important and it’s something that, you know, I, I try to focus on as much as I can. Um, you know, during downtime, but when you’re moving fast, uh, sometimes process gets skipped, sometimes process gets looked over. But when you have a process in place and you continuously implement it over and over, you get repeatable results, which is great. So when you knew you needed to create a process for this, tell me your process of, you know, what did you like, did you hire an outside person to help you with it? Did you work internally with your team? Do you have a process person on your team? How did that look for you?

Liz Georgie: For us, it was about taking one of our production assistants at the company who was just an all star and he had such a passion for the customer journey. And so we said to him, his name is Ryan. We said, Ryan, we’re going to do this half day and we want you to walk us through every step of the customer journey from your perspective because you touch so many of the steps and then other people will fill it in, fill in the blanks, right? So, so we get a more full picture and then we’re going to review this as a team.

Liz Georgie: And sort of, not talk about what we don’t want to do or do you want to do, but more so create a, a general idea of how could we turn this into something repeatable? Like how could we turn this into something that even when we’re moving really fast, we can still do all of these steps. Or when we’re moving more slowly, we maybe spend more time on all these steps. And so we did it a half day retreat where we sat down and, and Ryan really helped us with that. And then of course Ryan was swiftly promoted for our production manager, so now Ryan really takes people through this process that we’ve developed. But we’ve essentially identified five steps for us that exist in every single project, no matter how fast or how slow. And the first is just a creative briefing. It’s a briefing with the customer about what they want to achieve, what they want to do.

Liz Georgie: This second is an internal process. We call a strategic ideation. How do we take what the client told us in that briefing and ideate an idea, videos, concepts that actually align to what we’ve learned in the briefing. And then we share those with the customer and then that’s followed by traditional production processes. Pre-production, which is just the planning, the creation of all of the material needs that you have to actually produce something, which leads us to production. And production of course is your shoot day, you’re recording day, the day that you actually do the work that makes the thing. And then post-production, which is our editing, our animation, all the other elements that make everything come together and be refined. And by actually putting words to those five steps, we can now very clearly say, oh, in that creative briefing we talked about x, Y, Z, let’s make sure that we continue to do that in our, we continue to keep that in mind during production.

Liz Georgie: Right? So we have a real shared language. I think one of the things that growing businesses struggle with is not creating shared language. We talk a lot about, you know, do you have core values? You have a mission statement, do you have a vision statement? It’s like that stuff is all important. But more than that, and in my mind is getting really clear on how do we talk about our business, internally and externally? How do we talk to each other about how we do the work that we do and what are the shared terms, phrases, ideas that come together inside of this organization that make our work, work. And I’ve really valued that as we have gotten clear on those things, especially in the last year.

Eric Sharpe: Yeah. And that’s important, especially when you have new hires, you know, as as your company grows and the culture, you know, starts to shift because as you add and subtract, uh, employees, you know, things definitely change. Um, probably how many employees are you at right now?

Liz Georgie: We have 13 right now.

Eric Sharpe: Awesome. Yeah, I mean, that’s phenomenal. Um, and are you in two locations, is that correct?

Liz Georgie: We are, Yep. So we started in Minneapolis and then we opened our second location in Denver in year three. And so it’s, I now work out of the Denver location, which is awesome.

Eric Sharpe: Great. That’s awesome. So congratulations for that. I mean, that’s always a challenge as well. Were there any difficulties opening up the second location or is that planned?

Liz Georgie: It was planned, but even when you plan it, it can be difficult. Right. I just literally had a conversation with a business owner yesterday who was looking to expand her retail store to another city. And you know, the advice that I gave her was sort of threefold. First, make sure you understand the regulations, the laws, and the tax codes where you’re going to be opening your second location. They are not the same state to state. So get really clear on those things. And then in hiring and building a team in a new state, understand the nuances of how your teams are going to work together. Are you going to be a fully remote team? Are you going to come together twice a year or once a year? Like how are you going to create a shared culture amongst those two locations so that they aren’t just two islands unto themselves?

Liz Giorgi: And then finally, um, really making sure that you hire leaders in your, as your very, very first hires on a second location. You do not want to just hire doers in your second location because they’re, they’re essentially going to kind of go on the entrepreneurial journey a little bit in a, in an auxiliary way because they have a lot of responsibility. They’re going to probably be helping you find a location. They’re probably going to be helping you do silly things like make sure your location is verified on Google maps. Things, you know, that do not necessarily fit into the traditional job description of a video editor as an example. Um, and so making sure that you’re really honing in on, does this person have leadership skills? Can they take ownership of things? Uh, so that you really have a partner in that growth.

Eric Sharpe: Yeah, that’s good. Great. Great Advice. Thank you for that.

Liz Giorgi: Yeah, of course.

Eric Sharpe: So tell me why. Why do you wake up every day and do this, you know, what’s, you know, what’s the point of all this for you?

Liz Giorgi: Oh my gosh. Well, I mean, the truth of it is, is that I started this company because I wanted to solve a problem. Today, many years later, I feel so strong in my conviction that I love creating great jobs. I love creating great creative jobs for creative people and building creative teams who make beautiful things together. I just never grow tired of it. I never grow tired of walking in and seeing what people are working on, or walking into an edit booth and see a project come together. Creative people who feel supported, who have a really solid job. Um, they’re just the best people in the world to work with. And I don’t think I will ever grow tired of it.

Eric Sharpe: It sounds like they’re flourishing and you’re, you’re providing that platform for them, you know, and the best part is the customers get what they want too.

Liz Giorgi: I sure hope so. I certainly hope so. Yes.

Eric Sharpe: Sure, sure. Well, I, you know, certainly the referrals and repeat business, definitely show that for you. So if you could give yourself advice, you know, from five years ago, 10 years ago when you were kind of starting out, what advice would you give yourself with all the knowledge you have today?

Liz Giorgi: That’s so hard. I think in the last year especially, I’ve become just really conscious of the fact that you need to delegate sooner and trust more. Uh, you know, one of the things I held onto a lot of tasks for too long. Things that probably didn’t need to be on my plate, that were distracting from my true value to the company. Uh, were taking up a lot of my time. Everything from, you know, making sure that I’m reviewing our financial statements and cashing checks at the bank, uh, to, you know, making sure we have the trash taken out. I mean, those things are, are important things, but I don’t need to be doing those things as the CEO. So, um, I think delegate more, sooner. And then I think the other thing, when I say trust more, you know, certainly I think we all want to be trusted.

Liz Giorgi: Everybody wants to be trusted. I’ve never met somebody who says, please don’t trust me. You know, everyone wants to be trusted. And as a leader, it’s really incumbent upon you to trust before someone has earned it. To be willing to be the one to take the step off the ledge and say, I will trust you new employee with this huge project and this huge responsibility, uh, before you have actually proven to me that you can handle it. Because I find that when you do that, people buy in, they don’t buy in in a little way. They buy in in a big way. They say, wow, I have found a place where I can, I can really flourish and I can own the work that I want to bring to the table. And so I really wish I would have done that sooner. Now I feel like it is a great gift to the company to be able to do that.

Eric Sharpe: That’s a very, very smart advice. Yeah. I think, I think, I think it was Steve Jobs said something like, you know, hire, hire smart people and then get out of their way. Basically. You know, you’re not hiring bottom of the barrel people, you know, and micromanage them to death. It’s, you know, hire good people pay them well and then just let them run it based on your vision. You know, we, you know, as a leader you plant the flag, but you don’t tell them how to get there. You allow them to lead the party, so to speak, the project to where it needs to go in order to get there to that finish line and beyond. Sometimes.

Liz Giorgi: That’s a perfect analogy because the thing that I tell people is that once I figured that out, I realized that really smart people actually figure out how to get to the flag faster than you did. So that’s what always amazes me.

Eric Sharpe: We have this vision of like how we think it’s going to go, but you know, everyone has their own methods and the may ham of making it work and, and you know, if you’ve seen someone’s portfolio, you’ve seen what they’re capable of doing and you hire them. Why shouldn’t they be able to take on a project maybe a little bit bigger than what they’re used to. You know, if they’ve done it repeatedly, they’ve done had successful work over and over, you know why not. Right. You’re home in the deep end.

Liz Giorgi: Yeah. I love that.

Eric Sharpe: Yeah. Well, thanks so much for coming on today and I appreciate you, you, uh, giving us such great advice. Uh, you know, tell me, how can people connect with you? How can they get in touch with you?

Liz Giorgi: Yeah. Well, so first and foremost, I will never, ever, ever, not tell people about going on Instagram and following me on Instagram. Go to @LizGiorgi, and follow me on Instagram because I do Instagram stories almost every single day. Giving video tips on how you can be better on camera, how you can advance your skills with video and just how you can talk about your brand and your business using tools like Instagram to do it. So please go do follow me there. The second thing I would say is go to our website, and you can sign up for a free 15 minute consultation with myself or one of our directors at Mighteor to talk about video. We’ll answer any of your burning questions, no questions asked. So yeah, those are two great things that folks can do.

Eric Sharpe: That’s, that’s perfect. Thank you so much for offering that. And uh, you know, hopefully it will grow your Instagram following. I believe I’m already following you, but if not, I will be after this. So thanks. Thanks so much for that. Appreciate it.

Liz Giorgi: Thank you for having me on Eric. Yeah, this has been wonderful. Thank you so much.

Eric Sharpe: You’re welcome. All right, everyone. Bye. Bye.

Eric Sharpe

Eric Sharpe

Eric bridges the gap between the technical and creative worlds. His passion is teaching technology so that it can be understood by all ages. For article features and interviews, please reach out via social media.